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APRIL BY-ELECTIONS

EFF records famous victory over ANC in Free State as IFP turns tables on ruling party in KZN

EFF records famous victory over ANC in Free State as IFP turns tables on ruling party in KZN
IFP supporters at the launch of the party’s voter registration campaign outside the Durban City Hall on 15 January 2019. The party won another KwaZulu-Natal seat off the ANC in Wednesday's by-election. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thuli Dlamini)

The ANC had a tough night as it lost a seat in the Free State to the EFF and the IFP in KwaZulu-Natal, while the DA ran the ruling party close in a Hermanus township in the Western Cape.

Ward 17 (Fateng Tse Ntsho Paul Roux) in Dihlabeng, Thabo Mofutsanyane: EFF 57% (44% PR) ANC 36% (45% PR) PFA 3% (5% PR) IFP 2% (<1% PR) PA 2% (DNC) AULA <1% (<1% PR) 

The setting: This is the first Free State by-election since the local government elections in November 2021. It is taking place in the township of Fateng Tse Ntsho which is next to the tiny town of Paul Roux. Paul Roux is on the N5 national road and sits on the road between Senekal and Bethlehem. The ward also includes two sparsely populated rural voting stations east of Paul Roux on the road to Bethlehem.  However, 90% of the voters reside in Fateng Tse Ntsho. Dihlabeng’s seat of power is in Bethlehem and the towns of Clarens, Rosendal and Fouriesburg. It forms part of the Eastern Free State district of Thabo Mofutsanyane. 

The 2021 local government elections: The ANC had limited losses in Dihlabeng, falling from 25 to 23 seats. The party performed adequately in Dihlabeng, while suffering major losses in nearby municipalities like Maluti a-Phofung (Phudatijhaba) and Setsotso (Ficksburg). It did however underperform in Fateng Tse Ntsho. It fell from 70% on the proportional representation (PR) ballot to 45%, while the EFF more than doubled its support from 21% to 44% on the PR ballot. The ANC beat the EFF by 18 votes on the PR ballot, while the ANC won the ward election by 22 votes. Both ballots were razor-thin. The EFF fell 1% short on both ballots. The EFF grew from three to four seats in the municipality. One of the reasons it grew was because of Fateng Tse Ntsho. 

The EFF won the most vote-rich district in the ward, Rekgotsofetse Secondary School, by 150 votes. The ANC had to play catch-up and won the second-most vote-rich district, Sekoko Primary School, by 100 votes. What was crucial for the ANC was the voting district which had the lowest turnout, but where the party ran up the numbers, the rural Matoppo farm voting district. It got 48 votes more than the EFF here and then also won the rural Duikfontein school district by 20 votes. 

The by-election: The veteran ANC ward councillor passed away. The ANC and EFF were joined on the ballot by two regional parties, the Progressive Front of Azania (PFA) and the All Unemployment Labour Alliance (AULA). The Patriotic Alliance (PA) and IFP were also on the ballot. The EFF fielded the same candidate it did in the 2021 local government elections – Malefetsane Mokoena. The party beat the ANC by just under 500 votes to pick up a famous victory in Dihlabeng. It increased its percentage share of the vote in all four voting districts, while the ANC was only able to increase its percentage share in the district with the fewest voters on the day. The EFF beat the ANC by 378 votes at Rekgofetse Secondary School. Turnout was also highest at this, the most populous district in the ward. The EFF also flipped the Sekoko Primary School district, the second-most populous district in the ward, by getting 125 more votes than the ANC. 

In the 2021 elections the ANC benefited from a rural turnout differential, with percentage turnout in the two farming districts being higher than the turnout in the two districts in Fateng Tse Ntsho. This was not the case in this by-election. Turnout was higher in Fateng Tse Ntsho than the two less-populated farming districts. The EFF also won the Matoppo Farm district off the ANC, obtaining 51% of the vote, well up from the 25% it received there in 2021, while the ANC fell from 69% to 41%. The ANC held the Duikfontein School district but few votes were cast there. 

The EFF will now be able to build the narrative that it has serious momentum in the Free State. This was the first by-election in the province since early November 2021 and an ANC seat is now in the EFF column. 

The new council composition is: ANC 22 (23) DA 7 EFF 5 (4) AULA 2 FF+ 2 Independent 1 F4SD 1. Total: 40. 

Poll: 61% (53%)

Ward 19 (Mseleni Mbazwana) in uMhlabuyalingana, uMkhanyakude: IFP 53% (37%) ANC 38% (41%) EFF 9% (16%)

The setting: This rural ward abuts Lake Sibaya in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. It has five villages in the ward, with Mseleni, Mbazwana and Ntshongwe having the most voters. uMhlabuyalingana is the most northeasterly municipality in Kwazulu-Natal, in the corner of the province where it borders Eswatini and Mozambique. The council is located in Manguzi. It is part of the far-north district of uMkhanyakude. It is a very rural district, the largest town being Mtubatuba in the south, with Hluhluwe, Mkuze and Jozini also forming part of it.

The 2021 local government elections: The ANC beat the IFP here by 100 votes. This was despite the IFP winning four of the seven voting districts in the ward, including the three with the most registered voters, and the ANC only winning two districts. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC and Patriotic Alliance give DA the Barrydale blues with second Western Cape defeat

The ANC won the ward by running up the numbers at Kwa-Mboma Primary School in Mseleni. The turnout was high here, with 62% of the registered voters showing up, and the ANC also won just under 80% of the vote to get 229 votes more than the IFP. The margin between the IFP and the ANC was much closer at the three most-populous voting districts. The ANC won a smaller voting district as well, again with a similar recipe: high turnout and a large margin of victory in the district. The EFF won a voting district in Sibhoweni, where it relegated the IFP to second place. 

The uMhlabuyalingana council grew from 35 to 39 seats in 2021. Despite these additional four seats in the council, the ANC still lost five seats to fall from 23 to 18. The IFP grew from nine seats to 15. The EFF was a long way back in third place, with two seats, but was the only other party to win more than one seat. The IFP won the backing of the EFF, the DA and the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) to tie with the ANC and the National Freedom Party (NFP) on 19 seats each. A regional party, the Abahlali Base Mkhanyakude Movement (ABMM), supported the IFP, and the latter won the mayorship. 

The by-election: When the EFF ditched the IFP in favour of working with the ANC, it was clear that the IFP’s days of running Umhlabuyalingana were all but over. However, one of the ANC councillors delayed the inevitable by resigning from the council. Regardless of the outcome of this by-election, the ANC will still be able to take control of Umhlabuyalingana with the support of the EFF and the NFP. There were only three parties on the ballot – the ANC, IFP and EFF. The EFF was desperate for a solid showing in a KwaZulu-Natal by-election. 

The IFP beat the ANC by close to 500 votes as it won another KwaZulu-Natal seat off the ruling party. The IFP picked up respective voting districts off the ANC and the EFF, but also lost one to the ANC. Kwa-Mboma Primary School in Mseleni was key to the ANC victory in 2021, where it got close to 80% of the vote and the IFP managed only 15%. In this by-election the IFP turned the tables on the ANC, winning 53% of the vote, with the latter’s percentage vote share plummeting to 45%. The IFP also improved at Vimbukhalo Primary School in Mseleni, winning 64% compared with 51% in 2021. The ANC all but matched its 2021 showing, but the EFF declined from 11% to 6%. 

In Sibhoweni (Esibhoweni Primary School), the IFP went from 29% to 45%, while the EFF dropped from 49% to 38%. Turnout was highest in Sibhoweni, with 69% of the registered voters showing up. The IFP also surged in the other Sibhoweni voting district (Magcekeni school), moving from 41% to 77%, while the EFF fell from 37% to 9%. 

The ANC will want to study the Tshongwe Primary School district in Ntshongwe as the party went from 37% to 54% to beat the IFP here. The IFP remained on 41%, while the EFF declined from 17% to 5%.

The IFP narrowed the gap at the Old Tribal Court in Kwa-Mabaso, as it grew from 33% to 46%, with the ANC losing ground to finish on 53% compared with the previous 63%. The IFP also gained at the uMhlabuyalingana Traffic Department in Mbazwana, going from 47% to 57%. The ANC and EFF essentially replicated their 2021 showing here. 

The new uMhlabuyalingana council composition is: ANC 17 (18) IFP 16 (15) EFF 2 ABMM 1 NFP 1 DA 1 ACDP 1. Total: 39. The ANC, EFF and NFP have 20/39 seats and should still be able to take over this municipality. 

Poll: 65% (55%)

Ward 5 (Zwelihle) in Overstrand, Overberg: ANC 37% (56%) DA 30% (12%) EFF 16% (3%) LAND 15% (26%) PA 2% (DNC)

The setting: Zwelihle is a township west of the Hermanus town centre, between Hermanus and Sandbaai. Hermanus is the seat of power of Overstrand. Overstrand includes Kleinmond, Pringle Bay and Gansbaai. The Overberg includes Grabouw, Swellendam and Bredasdorp. 

The 2021 local government elections: The ANC beat local party LAND by a margin of greater than 2:1 in Ward 2. There are two other wards in Zwelihle. In Ward 6, LAND beat the ANC, while in Ward 12, the ANC beat LAND by a very narrow margin. Of the three Zwelihle wards, this is the least competitive. The DA beat the EFF to third place in this ward. The turnout was very low in this ward. This might explain why the ANC lost three of its seven seats on the council, with LAND remaining on two. The DA grew from 16 to 17 seats to cement its dominance in this 27-seat council. 

The by-election: The ANC councillor was stabbed to death. The ANC and LAND were joined by the DA, the EFF and the PA on the ballot. 

The ANC did not have it all its own way in Zwelihle. The DA ran the party close in both voting districts, with the ANC getting 50 more votes than the DA in each district to win by 100 votes. 

Once more there was a turnout differential advantage in the favour of the Yomelelani part of the ward as 43% of registered voters participated there, while only 26% showed up at Qhayiya Secondary School. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Key Tshwane win gives ANC a motivation boost while DA suffers low-turnout blow

The ANC won both voting districts, with the DA getting silver. The EFF came third at Qhayiya, with LAND finishing third in Yomelalani. The EFF beat LAND for third place by four votes.

This was a disappointing result for both the ANC and LAND. While at least the ANC walked away with the ward councillor position, LAND fell from second to fourth place. The DA will be delighted that it won 30% of the vote in a township. It will want to study this result carefully and see how to replicate it in other townships in the Western Cape and north and east of the provincial borders as well. LAND affected the EFF here in 2021. The EFF will be happy that it beat them. 

Poll: 33% (37%)

The next round of by-elections will be on 24 May when the ANC will defend two safe seats in KwaZulu-Natal and the DA too will defend two safe seats – in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal – and a competitive seat in Heidelberg (Lesedi), Gauteng. DM

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